Denise Goldberg's blog

Friday, March 27, 2015

shy

A pansy from the side shows a bit of its painted face.

side view of a pansy

Thursday, March 26, 2015

robins!

What's that sound? I was ready to head out to walk when I heard the sound of heavy rain hitting the windows and the ground. I've been enjoying daylight walks lately but tonight it felt like waiting a while would be a good idea.

An hour later light rain was falling and fog had descended. I grabbed my blinking lights (to be seen) and headed out. Given the conditions I did loops through quiet neighborhood streets. While the streets are back to bare pavement, the lawns are still covered with a blanket of white although there are strips along the edge where the ground is peeking out. It was on the bare ground where I saw a group of robins, hopping, then flying off.

Robins always make me believe that spring is on the way. I see them occasionally in the winter - and according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds they spend the winter here too.

Although robins are considered harbingers of spring, many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range. But because they spend more time roosting in trees and less time in your yard, you're much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions.

Seeing robins this evening made me smile.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

blue & white

While there was snow decorating the sand dunes on this chilly day in late January, the ocean and beach are seasonless. It was a day where the wet sand wore clear reflections of the sky.

reflections in blue and white
at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Monday, March 23, 2015

a pinwheel

The petals of this bright pink flower remind me of a pinwheel.

a cyclamen as a pinwheel

Sunday, March 22, 2015

on my wrist

Hey! What's that on my wrist?

At some point last year I started looking at fitness bands thinking it would be a good way to track my everyday movements and potentially a good motivator to do more. The bands typically pair with phones; I stopped looking when I found that for my Windows Phone I needed version 8.1 - and Verizon hadn't yet pushed that update. I didn't forget about the bands when my phone upgrade was completed in late December but I also didn't actively start looking again.

Early this year one of my colleagues stopped by to show me his Microsoft Band. Sold! The features looked right to me, including tracking of heart rate, calories, steps, the ability to track runs (for me that means walks), bike rides, other exercise as well. It can also be used to monitor sleep, a truly essential function. The Band also adds the magic of Cortana and notification of emails, texts, and phone calls. Oh! That looks good.

The Microsoft Band is designed to be used with a phone although some functionality is supported by using a USB connection to a computer. It supports use of Windows Phone 8.1, Android, or IPhone operating systems.

The bands were first released in October, apparently in very short supply. After looking, placing himself on a waiting list at the Microsoft Store, waiting, David received his band. I went through essentially the same process, getting mine just before Microsoft made them generally available at 3 retail outlets in addition to their own stores.

When not using the functions of the band I have it set to show the current time, day, and date. This shows against a black background. When the power button is pressed the background changes to the color I selected (purple for now!) and the current time is shown along with indicators with the current values for heartbeat, steps taken, distance traveled, and calories. The values other than heartbeat are automatically reset at midnight so you are always seeing the current day.

Microsoft Band funtions

More details can also be seen by swiping sideways and clicking on a tile representing the activity.

running activity tile on Microsoft Band

Even without selecting an activity to monitor the band records steps taken and calories expended.

I've had my Microsoft Band for less than a week and I've used it to track walks and to track sleep.

Both the run and bike functions allow the selected use of GPS to map the route taken. There are warnings on the web site that GPS uses a lot of power (and I've seen that to be true). Even without using GPS the distance and speed to tracked. With GPS those numbers may be somewhat more accurate and the generated workout statistics include a map of where I've been.

When walking the band vibrates each time I have completed another mile. I was surprised at that during my first walk but I quickly came to expect that feedback.

The band synchs automatically with my phone. If I am impatient I can open the app on my phone and start the synchronization process. Once it is done I can see the results of my activity on my phone.

results of a walk

... or on the dashboard of microsofthealth.com when I am logged in:

results of walk on https://dashboard.microsofthealth.com

What fascinates me even more is the ability to track my sleep. I already knew that I really need to target an earlier during the week bedtime but that absolutely slapped me in the face when I looked at my sleep time on a weekday morning and found that I had less than 5 hours of sleep. Yikes!

sleep time

The dark purple longer lines represent restful sleep while the lighter purple shorter lines show light sleep. The red lines are awake times. Hmm... I think I need to figure out how to have more restful sleep.

The image above is a screen shot taken from my phone; there is additional information below that can be seen by scrolling on the phone. The full set of information can also be seen at https://dashboard.microsofthealth.com when I am logged on to my Microsoft account. A screen shot from that application is shown below.

sleep time from https://dashboard.microsoft.health

I love the ability to see how far and how fast I have walked or biked, the ability to see my total steps for the day, to see my heart rate, and to watch the quality of my sleep. I think this is going to be a very good training tool.

The ability to see incoming texts, emails, and calls with a quick glimpse at my wrist is an interesting addition.

So far, I'm pleased with my new device


If you've decided to follow me and get your own band, you might be interested in the (free) eBook Microsoft Band Field Guide by Paul Thurrott (as linked from this page).

crazy windy

I was driving home from Maine this morning and wow! it is windy out there. Even with two hands firmly gripping the steering wheel I still had to recover from a few wind pushes. I just checked the current weather conditions; the wind is west at 23 miles per hour with gusts at 38 miles per hour.

It's crazy windy!

Friday, March 20, 2015

equinox

Even knowing that the season lags the calendar date, it's time to welcome the vernal equinox. The air is still quite nippy right now and while a jump to warmer temperatures would be welcome I'll be happy with a slow edging into spring warmth.

There are actually three events to celebrate today. From The Weather Channel:

Friday, March 20 brings with it a celestial showcase, a trio of events that includes a new moon, at 5:36 a.m., a total solar eclipse, at 5:46 a.m. and the vernal equinox, at 6:45 p.m., all Eastern time.

I'm looking forward to seeing the first grasses and flowers (of the season) emerging to add color to our world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

can you hear the wind?

Listen. Can you hear the wind?

The forecast was for a sunny afternoon with temperatures in the 40s dropping into the teens overnight with cold for the rest of the week. I thought I might get in one last sort of warm walk before the chill returned. That wasn't to be.

Late in the afternoon rain started falling, whipped by a very strong wind. By the time I reached home the rain had stopped, the temperature had dropped to the low 30s, and the wind was howling. It was surprisingly good walking weather except for the few times when the wind almost blew me over.

Listen...

Monday, March 16, 2015

ruffled and painted

Pansies wear a painted face and ruffled edges, presenting intricate beauty.

ruffled and painted

snowiest!

The snowfall record is officially broken!

Yesterday's snow at Boston's Logan Airport brought the season's total to 108.6 inches, a full inch above the previous record set during the season of 1995-1996. It feels right; after all the bulk of this year's snow came within a span of 4 weeks, not a full winter season.

falling snow

falling snow, from the beginning of this year's crazy snow season

Click to read the article Boston’s winter vaults to top of snowfall records in today's Boston Globe.